Lose the decades’ long lie of promising naive 18-year-old’s that their selected occupation specialty will be the “tip of the spear” when the next war kicks off. What’s the difference between Military Police and Delta Force anyway?
Resolve to stop using the poster of HALO school pictures of grunts in OIF I when explaining what being a cook in the Army is like. The naive kid will likely be none the wiser if you use polished, Army-approved images of Culinary Specialist AIT, and your quota gets filled either way.
The Drill Sergeant
The kinder and gentler Army is here and Drill Sergeants aren’t supposed to yell anymore. Resolve this year to strike fear in the hearts of your trainees in other ways. Never underestimate the power of a knife-hand, dark sunglasses and blank expression in any given situation.
Maybe don’t use every negative instance in your life to exert your rage onto your platoon of trainees. Maybe you’ve only slept two hours in the past two days and you got a ticket for going one mile over the speed limit on post. Take out that anger in the gym instead and turn it into gains.
Every POG Veteran on TV shows
When told, “Thank you for your service” this time, resolve not to bust into the highly suspect monologue about cooking under fire.
Try to use the phrase,“I was pretty much Infantry” a little less when explaining your military service to a civilian, especially when you detail your traumatic “deployments” to Kuwait and Bahrain. Oh, the horror…
The brand-new Second Lieutenant
It’s been exactly six minutes since you’ve arrived at your first unit and no one has saluted you or asked you about your vast experience at Ranger School? Maybe let it slide this year and also give up on demanding that the Command Sergeant Major stands at attention when talking to you.
Speaking of Ranger School, stop talking about it. You are not the first barrel-chested freedom fighter to graduate from the course and unless you want to be punched in the throat by your Platoon Sergeant or duct taped to a tree by your entire platoon, maybe try to be humble about your first Army experience.
The Infantryman back from his first deployment
Resolve to not bring up Afghanistan in every single conversation you have with civilians. Your six-month stay on tranquil Bagram Airfield where you went to the gym four times a day and left the wire exactly zero times does little to bolster your image of a stone-cold killer and the lack of a CIB on your chest isn’t fooling anyone.
10. Perhaps listen to your NCO for once and don’t marry the stripper you just met in Nashville who you suddenly feel is your soulmate regardless of how much cash you have given her in the past two hours. Remember when you bought that 2020 Ford Mustang at 26 percent interest rate? Yeah, maybe your Squad Leader was right about something.
It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.
The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.
After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.
Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.
When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.
He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.
Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.
When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.
However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.
Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.
His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.
Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.
Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.
Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”
The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”
Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”
Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.
The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.
However, the cadets weren’t done.
They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.
So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.
US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.
Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.
While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.
After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”
If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.
Hollywood might often showcase submarines hunting down and attacking other submarines in a variety of movies and TV shows, but it’s actually been a very rare event in history.
In fact, the only time a submarine has ever been known for successfully hunting down and destroying an enemy submarine while underwater was in February 1945, with the destruction of the U-864, a German Type IX U-boat off the coast of Norway by a Royal Navy sub.
Towards the end of the war in Europe, U-864 under the command of Ralf-Reimar Wolfram, was sent out on a secret transport mission as part of Operation Caesar to smuggle jet engine components and schematics, bottles of mercury for constructing explosives, advisors and engineers to Japan undetected by Allied warships prowling around for U-boats.
The faltering German higher command had hoped that even if they were unsuccessful in their theater of war, the Japanese military could benefit from the advanced technology they sent over, continuing the war effort and eventually affording Germany a chance to get back in the fight.
In December 1944, the U-864 left its submarine pen in Kiel, Germany, for a trip to occupied-Norway where it would be refitted with a new snorkel before departing on its mission. The problematic refit and damage sustained from accidentally running aground pushed its deployment back until January of the next year.
Unbeknownst to the German navy, Allied forces were already aware of Operation Caesar, having cracked the Enigma code which was used by the German military to encrypt its classified communications. As a response to Caesar, the Royal Air Force and Navy bombed a number of submarine pens in Norway, including one where U-864 was temporarily housed in for repairs.
The U-864 eventually deployed on Operation Caesar, slipping away undetected by nearby Allied warships. However, a monkey wrench was thrown into the covert mission’s gears when the Royal Navy – unwilling to take unnecessary chances – tasked the HMS Venturer to hunt down and kill the U-864 before it could make a dash for the open oceans.
Venturer was commanded by Lt. Jimmy Launders, a highly-respected and brilliantly-minded tactician. Within days of reaching the U-864’s last suspected position, Launders “spotted” his quarry, thanks to noises emanating from the German warship’s engines.
Wolfram, unaware of the Venturer’s presence, had ordered his sub to turn around and head for port when it began experiencing engine troubles which created considerable noise – something he feared would easily give away their position. But by then, it was too late.
Launders began tracking the U-864 using a hydrophone instead of his sonar, as the “pings” from the sonar system would have likely alerted his prey to his existence. After a lengthy tracking phase, Launders fired off a spread of four torpedoes — half of his entire armament — and awaited the fruits of his efforts.
Wolfram’s bridge crew realized they were under attack when the noise from the inbound torpedoes reached the ears of their own hydrophone operators. Ordering the U-864 to take evasive maneuvers, Wolfram and his crew powered their submarine up in an attempt to speed out of the area.
Out of the four torpedoes launched by the Venturer, one hit its mark directly, fracturing the U-boat’s pressure hull and immediately sending it and its entire crew to the bottom. Launders and the crew of the Venturer had just effected the first and only submarine vs. submarine kill in history — a feat that has never been matched to this very day.
The wreck of the U-864 was discovered in 2003 by the Norwegian Navy, near where the Royal Navy had earlier reported a possible kill. Its cargo of mercury has since been exposed to the sea, severely contaminating the area around the shipwreck.
In the years since its rediscovery, the U-864 has been buried under thousands of pounds of rocks and artificial debris in order to stop the spread of its chemical cargo. It will remain there for decades to come while the metal of the destroyed submarine slowly disintegrates away.
The non-profit American Corporate Partners called out We Are The Mighty recently for the Give Them 20 campaign, and we happily obliged.
Give Them 20, a campaign launched on Memorial Day, is similar to last year’s “Ice Bucket Challenge,” only this time people are encouraged to shoot creative videos that feature them “giving 20” of an exercise, such as pushups, sit-ups, or pull-ups. It has already had considerable star power behind it, from celebrities like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and is meant as a way of raising awareness for veterans.
“More than 1 million veterans are in the process of returning home and 2 million veterans are already back,” ACP Chairman and Founder, Sid Goodfriend, said in a statement. “Let’s salute all of our service members this summer by giving them 20.”
At We Are The Mighty in Los Angeles, our office is filled with military veterans from every branch. But we got called out and we figured we could do our part. As you’ll see, we had some fun in the process.
During World War II, there was a concerted effort to develop heavier and heavier tanks, often stretching past the limits of practicality and even credulity. Some of the larger examples were well over 100 tons, huge by today’s standards. Almost none were ever deployed in battle. But they displayed a school of thought similar to that of battleships, where sheer armor and weaponry took precedence over anything else.
The Japanese developed several prototypes for massive tanks to be used in the Pacific Theater. The O-I superheavy tank was conceived due to the profound inferiority of Japanese Army armor facing off against Soviet armor in a series of severe border clashes at Khalkin Gol on the Manchurian border. A single functional model was built by 1945, weighing in at a gigantic 120 tons and armed with a 105mm gun and two rocket launchers. Under murky circumstances it was shipped to Manchuria and it is unknown whether it ever saw combat. It was scrapped after the war. Only its tracks remain in an Japanese museum.
The German Panzer VIII, jokingly named the Maus, or Mouse, was the largest and heaviest tank design that was ever actually built, though it never saw any frontline service. It weighed in at 188 tons, over six times as heavy as a U.S. M4 Sherman, and was conceived as a way to break through heavy field fortifications in frontal assaults. It was armed with a 128mm gun that could easily destroy any Allied tank out to very long ranges. It also carried a 75 mm gun as a secondary armament that was equal to the main gun on the M4. Several prototypes were constructed, but were captured by the Soviets in 1945. Only one, assembled from the prototypes, remains in the Kubinka tank museum in Russia.
The United States and the British also worked on vehicles in the 70-100 ton range, but they were conceived more as large armored self-propelled artillery, such as the American T28 and the British Tortoise. Neither entered production before the end of the war.
Despite their awesome appearance, superheavy tank designs were almost uniformly a failure. The size and weight of the tanks made traversing rough terrain difficult if not impossible, and they were often far too heavy for most bridges, restricting them to fording the rivers using snorkels. But river fords shallow enough for passage were not always available, a severe restriction on the tank’s tactical flexibility. Also, tanks were generally transported long distances by rail, and the extreme difficulty of doing so with 100-plus ton tanks was a serious disadvantage.
Heavy armor alone was not enough to make up for low speed and presenting a large target. Tanks in the open are extremely vulnerable to air attack, and a slow, large target was even more so. A 250-pound bomb from above would kill a superheavy tank as quickly as a light one.
Even light artillery could at the least knock off one of the tracks, leaving the tank immobilized and helpless. Low maneuverability and speed meant lighter enemy tanks could outflank them and hit them from the sides and rear, where the armor was weakest. Far greater numbers of regular tanks like the American M4 and the famed Soviet T-34 could be built, and it was these that overcame the often superior German tanks through tactics and numbers.
But the single biggest problem facing superheavy tank designs was one that plagued many of their smaller cousins: mechanical reliability. The engines available were uniformly underpowered, and the huge weight of armor and weapons took a terrible toll on transmissions, suspensions, and turret mechanisms. A broken-down tank was just as useless as one destroyed by the enemy. Even the German King Tiger II, still large at 68 tons, lost more tanks to mechanical breakdown than to the enemy.
Following the war, improvements in armor and gun technology made superheavy tanks unnecessary. Advances like composite armor and better engines made tanks more survivable while faster and more maneuverable, and ever more effective airpower made monster tanks more of a target than a weapon. The M1 Abrams, the mainstay tank of the United States for over 30 years, weighs in at less than a third of the Panzer VIII.
Like so many “miracle weapons,” the superheavy tanks never panned out. It proved more effective to have larger numbers of smaller, economical, and more reliable tanks, rather than a small number of large ones. Modern tank design in particular has concluded that bigger is not always better.
The C-130 Hercules is easily one of the longest-serving series of military aircraft in the world, having first made its appearance in the mid-1950s.
Though the Herc, as it’s popularly known, doesn’t really look anything like the high-performance ultra-nimble fighters and trainers modern aerobatic teams use today, you might be surprised to hear that the U.S. Air Force once upon a time had a C-130 demonstration team of its own!
Built as a replacement for the Air Force’s WWII-era C-47 Skytrains, C-46 Commandos, and the slightly newer C-119 Flying Boxcar, the C-130 was designed to transport troops, jeeps, and machinery in and out of combat zones, landing on unimproved fields and dirt strips should runways be inaccessible.
The first of the Hercs to enter service with the USAF were known as the C-130A.
By early 1957, a number of C-130As were sent to Campbell Army Air Field in Kentucky where they would be taking platoons of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division up for a series of coordinated airdrops.
The weather had something else to say about these plans, however, and they were cancelled when high winds rendered the drop zone too dangerous for the exercise.
Instead of wasting a prime opportunity to log flight hours on their brand new Hercs, the four aircraft commanders assigned to each plane — Captains Jim Aiken, Gene Chaney, Bill Hatfield, and David Moore — decided to fire up the planes and go for a flight.
All four pilots came from the 774th Troop Carrier Squadron, aka “The Green Weasels.”
After spending some time practicing flying in close proximity, the four decided to drop down low above Campbell in tight formation, roaring over the base to the glee of soldiers below. After a few passes, the Hercs landed, only to be given another chance at perfecting their formation routine again just a few days later, thanks to poor weather.
Upon returning to the former home of the 774th — Ardmore AFB, OK — the four pilots quickly worked together to develop an idea inspired by their antics at Campbell.
Like the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels, they too could form a demonstration team to show off the incredible capabilities of the C-130 and the airmanship of some of the service’s finest pilots.
Over the course of 1957, Aiken, Chaney, Hatfield and Moore, practiced their show routine when time permitted, flying with precision at extremely small distances of separation between the aircraft.
In 1958, the four got wind of a ceremony requiring a flyover at Ardmore, and with their wing commander’s approval, broke away from a parade of 36 Hercs, flying in a diamond pattern low over the airfield, and culminating in a bomb-burst breakaway.
Their act was met with horror and indignation from many Air Force officers on hand to witness the ceremony, but a considerable number of brass — many with political power within the branch — were impressed enough to allow the four pilots to perform as a team from there on out.
First known as the Thunderweasels, a play on the Thunderbirds demo team and their own Green Weasels unit, these four pilots were moved to Stewart AFB, TN, where they began practicing a 20-minute show routine to be later performed at shows across the country.
The team proved to be a big hit and a huge publicity bonus for Lockheed.
By the end of 1959, the team had adopted a new name, The Four Horsemen, alluding to their four-ship flight, though some say it was a reference to the University of Notre Dame’s 1924 Rose Bowl champion football squad.
The Horsemen went on to fly a dozen official shows that year, and a number of unofficial flyovers and demonstrations in-between.
The team’s existence was slowly but surely threatened throughout 1959.
Lockheed had already developed the C-130B, a more fuel-efficient long range improvement on the A model, and the Air Force needed as many operational Hercs to be made available as they could muster.
What the B model made up for with range and efficiency, it lost with its handling, making it a dangerous proposition for close-formation flights.
In the spring of 1960, three years after they flew their first impromptu show over Fort Campbell, the Four Horsemen were disbanded, never to fly another demonstration.
Aiken, Chaney and Hatfield remained with the Air Force while Moore moved on, entering the civilian world not long after the team was broken up.
It’s highly unlikely that anything like the Four Horsemen will ever exist ever again, and today, the only C-130 demo still flying is the Blue Angel’s Fat Albert, a Marine Corps-crewed blue, white, and gold Herc that flies a solo routine at airshows across North America.
Although the Unite States and Britain have had their share of disputes early on in American history, today the two countries are the closest of friends.
In case you were living under a rock, British troops have been fighting alongside US forces as it continues to fight the global war on terror. That means while our service members are overseas, there’s a solid chance they will encounter members of the British army on a joint mission.
That being said, the British have some popular slang terms that we Americans don’t use but probably should know.
Army Pvt. James S. Bumgarner met a North Korean patrol during the evening of April 23, 1951, during the early stages of the Korean War. You probably know him better as actor James Garner, star of The Rockford Files, Maverick, and The Great Escape, among many others. But before his Hollywood career took off, he enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marine at the end of World War II, then into the California National Guard before deploying to Korea for 14 months with the 5th Regimental Combat Team.
In his 2011 memoir, The Garner Files, he wrote:
Army chow was bearable as long as I could keep the onions and garlic out of it. I cannot stand onions and I’m very sensitive to garlic. I can taste tiny amounts of it, like when they’ve cooked another dish with garlic before and don’t wash the pan. If I get even a hint of it, I might throw up in my plate. This violent aversion may have saved my life: like our South Korean allies, the Chinese and North Korean troops lived on a diet of fish heads, rice, and garlic.
One night while on guard on the line, I caught a faint whiff of it coming from the direction of the enemy positions. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew there was someone out there and they were coming closer. Once I sniffed them I could hear them, too. It turned out to be a patrol heading straight for our position. They were just the other side of a rise when I passed the word down the line. We were ready for them and stopped them in their tracks.
He was wounded in that exchange and received his first Purple Heart. 32 years after the war, Garner received another Purple Heart for being wounded during a friendly fire incident where a strafing fighter hit him in the buttocks. The Army mixed up the paperwork and only found it after the actor mentioned the incident on Good Morning America
“I got it in the backside. I went into a foxhole headfirst and I was a little late. There’s a lot of room for error with a wound in the rear. It’s a wide target.”
During his long career as an actor, Garner played a number of military roles, including an American airman in the WWII-era British Eagles Squadron, an Army Tanker, and Army infantryman.
“After 32 years, it’s better to receive this now than posthumously,” Garner said at his ceremony. “It is indeed an honor and I tried to serve my country to the best of my ability.”
President-elect Donald Trump’s renewed criticism of NATO widened a potential rift with Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis on the need to shore up the alliance against the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a joint interview Sunday with The London Times and Germany’s Bild publication, Trump recycled charges from his campaign that NATO is “obsolete,” questioned the worth of the European Union and said that Germany was wrong to admit refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.
In his Senate confirmation hearing last week, retired Marine Gen. Mattis said, “If we didn’t have NATO today, we’d need to create it. NATO is vital to our interests.”
“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps — the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps — working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.”
“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia,” he said.
Mattis also suggested that Trump is willing to hear opposing arguments on NATO. “I have had discussions with him on this issue,” he said. “He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue.”
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s choice to become national security adviser, also supports bolstering NATO and other U.S. global commitments.
In a speech last week at the U.S. Institute of peace, Flynn said, “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnifies our own strengths.
“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said.
After meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump’s criticism of NATO is “in contradiction” of Mattis’ vision of a strengthened alliance and U.S. support of NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on any member as an attack against all.
“Obviously, the comments from President-elect Trump that he views NATO as obsolete were viewed with anxiety,” Steinmeier said.
In his remarks to The London Times and Bild, Trump said of NATO: “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago.” He renewed his charges that most members of the 28-nation alliance are not living up to their responsibilities under the treaty.
The U.S. provides about 70 percent of the funding for NATO while other nations “aren’t paying their fair share, so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said. “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to — five. It’s not much.”
Under agreements reached in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO members pledged to devote at least two percent of their budgets to defense and outlined steps to reach that goal.
Despite the criticism of NATO, Trump’s remarks could also be seen as a prod to get members to pay their dues. “NATO is very important to me,” he said.
However, Trump’s views that NATO is obsolete are in line with those of Putin, who has for years denounced NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders. In response to Trump’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “NATO is indeed a vestige of the past and we agree with that.”
A Deal With Putin
Trump also expressed interest in a deal with Putin that would lift sanctions against Russia in return for a mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.
“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially; that’s part of it.”
The Trump interview came as U.S. troops and tanks were arriving in the Polish town of Zagan in a historic move to shore up NATO’s eastern flank that has infuriated Putin. In addition, 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday to join in training exercises.
In a ceremony as snow fell over the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the first contingents of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, “We have waited for you for a very long time.”
“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east,” Macierewicz said.
To counter Russia, the Obama administration, with the support of Congress in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, recommended boosting the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative from $789 million to $3.4 billion.
ERI was established in the fiscal 2015 budget to “reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity as members of the NATO alliance.” It supported increased U.S. investment across five categories: presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, pre-positioned equipment, and building partner capacity.
To expand presence across the region, the U.S. Army began periodic rotations of armored and airborne brigades to Poland and the Baltic states; the Air Force added additional F-15 Eagles to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; and the Navy cycled ships through the Black Sea. The U.S. also spent $250 million to improve bases in Europe.
In a welcoming ceremony in Germany earlier this month for the 4,000 troops of the 3rd ABCT, Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said that its presence showed that the U.S. commitment to NATO is “rock solid.”
“I can assure you, this [ABCT] does not stand alone — it is integrated and combined with forces and other equipment in space, cyberspace, the air, land and sea, with our allies and partners,” Ray said. “A joint persistent rotational presence of American land, sea and air is in the region as a show of support to our allies and in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”
“Let me be very clear — this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”
In 1943, although B-17s had been used regularly in daylight bombing raids over Europe, nighttime bombing was still a relatively new concept to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Tactics were being developed in a hurry to satisfy the increasing demands of the war, and pilots were being trained at a rapid clip.
It was against that intense backdrop that four B-17s took off one night from Dalhart Army Airfield in Texas. The target was in Conlen, Texas, a mere 20 miles from Dalhart Airfield. It was supposed to be marked with four lights at each corner, creating an “X-marks-the-spot” for the student aircrews to hit. Instead, a young navigator led the bomber formation 40 miles in the other direction, to Boise City, Oklahoma.
At zero-dark-thirty, the bombers approached their target, not realizing it had taken them twice as long as it should have to get there. The townspeople were asleep by this time, and the town’s lights were out — except for the four lights around the Cimmaron County Courthouse.
The crew in the lead bomber, thinking they reached their target, let fly a couple of sand-filled training bombs over the population of 1,200. They hit the town butcher’s garage, taking out its roof. The next plane’s drop fell just short of a Baptist Church. The third and fourth bombers’ bombs narrowly missed hitting some of the town’s fuel stores.
The sheriff immediately called the base at Dalhart. Dalhart radioed the wayward planes to ask them to ensure they were on target. The crews ensured Dalhart that they were over the training target and were not bombing civilians, which led to an argument between the bomber crews and Dalhart’s tower. That’s when an electric company engineer shut down the town’s electricity, hiding it from the bombers. In all the bombers dropped six training bombs on Boise City.
The crews returned to Dalhart immediately. The navigator was (understandably) fired, while the rest of the crew were faced with a choice: go right into combat as soon as possible or face a court martial. It was a big decision: The Eighth Air Force casualty rate for all of World War II in Europe was a whopping 41 percent, with 26,000 killed in action. These crews would later fly in formations over Berlin.
Fifty years after the bombing, the citizens of Boise City erected a memorial to the event, complete with concrete crater and WWII-era training bomb.
Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.
As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.
“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.
While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.
Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.
“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.
As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.
Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.
“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.
Way back in the early ’90s, when I was a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as the editor of Approach magazine (Naval Aviation’s Safety review), I was invited by NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd to come down to Houston for a hands-on tour. Along with suiting up in full astronaut gear and flying the shuttle simulator in all regimes of flight, I had the opportunity to ride in NASA’s “reduced gravity aircraft,” better known as the “vomit comet” (because of its tendency to cause passengers to throw up during the zero-G missions).
In those days NASA used a couple of KC-135 Stratotankers as the Vomit Comets, which were big ol’ beasts relative to the contract Airbus 300s and 727s they used later. We launched out of Ellington Field at headed over the Gulf of Mexico. There were about a dozen passengers in the compartment with me, mostly engineers who were testing exercise equipment for future use on the space station.
There was a crew chief who was charged with making sure nobody got hurt, and he explained during his safety brief that the main way to avoid injury was to make sure you had a hand on the padded floor during the transition from zero-G back to 1-G. He said that passengers had sprained ankles and wrists or twisted neck muscles by getting disoriented while weightless and hitting the deck in an awkward fashion once G came back on the airplane.
The pilot announced “starting the pull,” which meant he was commencing a 1.8 G pull until the aircraft’s nose was pointed 45 degrees up. At that point he pushed the nose forward until the aircraft was right at zero G and held it there until the aircraft was pointed 45 degrees nose down, which resulted in about 30 seconds of weightlessness. At that point he’s start another 1.8 G pull back to 45 degrees nose up into another zero G pushover . . . over and over again. Each cycle was known as a “parabola,” and a mission consisted of 40 of them – 20 headed eastbound and 20 headed back to the base, westbound.
My host Navy Captain Bill Shepherd, a SEAL by warfare specialty who later broke the record for days on the International Space Station, had done the Vomit Comet missions many times. He’d admitted before the mission that he’d become airsick every time and predicted he’d do so on that day’s mission as well.
I was a Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer with more than 1,000 tactical jet hours under my belt at the time, so high-G flight was nothing new to me. In fact, the parabola profile seemed pretty mild compared to the way a fighter maneuvered during a dogfight. But the engineers weren’t as experienced, and Capt. Shepherd instructed me to watch them as the flight went along.
“Everybody will do the first 10 parabolas very giddy,” he said. “They’ll flip around and laugh and high five each other.”
The next ten parabolas would have fewer spins and less laughter, he predicted. The 10 after that would consist of people fighting the urge to throw up. And the last 10 would be a bunch of miserable people wishing the flight would end as they floated for 30 seconds at a time after getting sick.
And that’s pretty much what happened. At some point in the flight everybody’s joy wore off as their inner ears said “WTF?” with all the gyrating and weird sensations. Along with Capt. Shepherd the majority of those in the compartment got airsick, and about three-quarters of the way through the mission all of the engineers were so incapacitated that they were unable to test the fitness equipment. According to former Reduced Gravity Research Program director John Yaniec, anxiety contributes most to passengers’ airsickness. The stress on their bodies creates a sense of panic and therefor causes the passenger to vomit.
The crew chief noticed that I seemed to be doing okay, so he asked if I would jump in and try out the reclined bicycle and the stepper. I did, and we were able to flag that the stepper had a tendency to stick on the down-stroke during zero G.
I’d experience zero G many times before that, but never for 30 seconds at a time. The sensation of being weightless for that long was very cool, relaxing even. Although those suffering airsickness among us certainly didn’t feel the same way, before I knew it we’d done 40 parabolas and we were back on deck at Ellington Field.
My flight on the Vomit Comet was among the most memorable experiences of my 20-year Navy career, and I’m glad I got to do it before the “reduced gravity” program was cancelled in 2014, another casualty of NASA’s dwindling budget.